Forward moving, we always turn back time.
Like ocean, built of body, memory
the God of good grease paints follicles holy
and those waves, Lord, those ancient waves
facilitate a brother’s boldest baptism, wipe me
down, a litany of all the good that came to stay.
The Atlantic remembers every part of Black anatomy.
Like a curse, a calling: those cold waters
shift and stagnate under a cotton polyester blend.
They never got to lay claim to the water, but by God
How they dam(n)ed, privatized, seized, overfished,
extracted, deregulated, poisoned, commodified
pulled the cloth from the crease quick, like a run in
a stocking. Ripped the color clean from scalp--
an instantaneous divide reminds what can be taken
and what can be absolved.
Later, a Black boy will fit his mouth around the word rage
hold it behind his tongue, ferment his brooding into savage.
Watch him pull bones from the riverbed, casting wide
mesh drenched in cotton coagulations. Pray for summer rain
to rinse all these triflin’ transgressions clean. Any flood breaks
a bullet’s back but does not siphon the blood back into body.
Baby, I can’t help but enshrine you as a vengeful sea God
Drowning in all that drip, all that sheen.
• • •
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ASHIA AJANI is a Black queer storyteller hailing from Denver, CO, Queen City of the Plains. Their work explores the fragmented and complicated relationships between the Black diaspora and Western environmental stewardship. They have been published in Sierra, Sage Magazine, Foglifter Press, among others, and have forthcoming work in Clav Magazine. They are a 2019 PEN America Writing for Justice finalist. Keep up with their work on the socials: @ashiainbloom.